It has been about 18 months since we last set down with Sharp Practise. What has the band been doing in the interim?
You have been clocking some hours in the studio. Where have you been recording, and what is the ultimate goal of these studio sessions?
We’ve been recording at our own studio, The Moose House, which is located in Wigan, a town about halfway between Liverpool and Manchester in England. We have 24 track digital facilities there. The ultimate goal is to complete the new album ready for mastering in the summer of this year.
How have recording sessions differed from those from Steal With Pride?
We decided that this album should be less eclectic and more focused on a single style than Steal With Pride. To that end, we’ve concentrated on a blues rock based approach that draws on our inspiration from classic 70s British and Irish rock but which has a modern twist and sound to it. The lyrics are more romantic than previously (in an evocative, sentimental meaning rather than a boy meets girl sense) and the sound is a lot more stripped down, with fewer big guitar solos and fewer keyboard parts.
Your last album has had considerable legs, with Hard Heart being heard in new locales. Can you speak a little bit about the new audiences that you’ve reached in the last year?
Yes, we’ve been very lucky, added to which a number of people have worked very hard on our behalf to get the word out there about us. We’ve spread across the USA a great deal, with radio and video exposure of our song Hard Heart. We’ve had a number of encouraging reviews and radio interviews on the back of the good response to the song. We’ve also expanded into the Far East and improved our profile across Europe and even in our own backyard of the UK on the back of the song. We’ve definitely picked up more fans recently as a result!
How has your style changed and evolved since your earliest recordings?
I think as time has gone by we’ve tightened up a lot in terms of the range of music we try and produce. Originally we were quite happy to be a folk, pop-rock, hard rock hybrid band. Nowadays we seem to have a niche in the blues based rock field and are trying to hone our style to make the best records we can make in that particular style, with just the occasional break-out to prevent our audience getting bored with us playing the same old thing for an entire album. I guess we’ve become more disciplined over the years, making a kind of music that’s right for us and our audience rather than because we can make that style.
What changes in tech have influenced Sharp Practice in the last few years?
The big thing for us has been to exploit the opportunities digital recording offers. We all grew up with analogue, big tape reels and all that. So our writing and playing was shaped by where you might be able to splice a bit of tape in if you needed to expand a song, or by having one view of how the end result should sound because you had a limited number of tracks to play with. With digital we can keep the decision making until the very end of the recording process because it’s not a problem to insert another ten bars, or to use virtual track three with the alternative lyrics, or to cut the mix of a song about to restructure it, taking a verse out there, adding a chorus here or whatever.
What would Sharp Practise of 2015 tell the Sharp Practise of 1999?
Lots of things – some would definitely be about who to work with, and who not! Also, our tours are much better organised now, we can hit the road far more cheaply and efficiently than we could when we started. I think also we’d reassure them that, hey we’d still be around, and we were still expanding our fan base 16 years down the road. So I think we tell them to hang on in there as things were going to work out ok.
Part of understanding a band’s mystique is hearing them live. Where can fans see SP live?
We aim to do some more shows once we’ve got the new album ready but haven’t firmed anything up yet. As they say, we’re open to all reasonable offers! We recently had a show we did in the UK filmed and are planning to put some footage up on our Facebook page soon (you can find us on Facebook by looking for Sharp Practise, musician/band), so that might help people in places that we haven’t been fortunate to visit yet get an idea of how we sound live.
Do you have any thoughts for NeuFutur’s readers?
Just a couple – one is, give it time, not everyone will understand what you’re trying to achieve straight away and that’s probably down to you, not them. The second is, learn from that and adapt so that you’re still doing what you want to but in a way that your audience wants it done.